December is a great time to reflect, review and plan. Here are some thoughts to help grow profits in 2018.
Your first plan is execution. Years ago, in college, I often heard professors state that the most common cause of small business failure is a lack of planning. That may be true, but with regards to marketing, my many years of consulting with the print and mail industries have led me to believe that the biggest challenge companies face is an inability to execute business plans and initiatives. Like dieting (another area where I have a lot of experience), planning is easy, and execution is hard. This doesn’t mean planning isn’t critical. It most certainly is. But planning efforts are a waste of time and dare I say–often a short term–feel good placebo in the absence of a commitment to execute.
You should have one-year goals but restrict your detailed plans to 90 days. I’ve seen clients have great success with 90-day quick plans. And if that’s still a challenge, then shorten it to 30-day plans. Like sales quotas, 30 days leave little leeway to get off track. If you do, there is a much greater urgency to get back on track. Your ability to execute plans will dictate the amount of structure you need to add to your execution plan.
Always be learning! I loved this quote from the recent SGIA 2017 show: “Today’s printer is a brand marketer, a technological expert, a designer, and a business strategist. Oh, and you print, too.” Each of these fields requires effort and continuing education. Commit time every day to reading and learning. Increased knowledge in these areas will enable and inspire you to offer more effective solutions to your client’s challenges. I’m particularly impressed with several of the mail and marketing solutions now available to service providers. They each make it easier to differentiate your brand with innovative, effective solutions. But if you’re not eager and open to learning, you will miss out on many of these opportunities. Early adoption is key.
Make sure that your website is better than your competitors. If you won’t tolerate a poorly performing employee or a poorly performing MIS system, then why is there such widespread acceptance of a poorly performing website? Plan at least quarterly meetings to discuss and implement improvements. Make sure that new content is posted at least monthly. Add short (60-120 second) videos that highlight recent projects, success stories, services, tutorials, etc. and share them out on social media to pull in additional traffic. View your site as a one-on-one conversation with your best customer. Too many read like an instruction manual, which many people don’t read. Make sure it has a human element and feel to it. Showcase key personnel with short bios. Every company, new and old, has an interesting story to tell. Tell it. Storytelling is a hot buzzword in marketing these days. It will continue to be so. We’re getting used to having more and more information available to use. In addition to trusting you, nowadays, people want to know you and like you as well. And they also expect you to have a social media presence that is accessible via your website.
Have a customer and prospect communication plan in place. Outbound, inbound, social and face-to-face. I’ve spoken at length in previous columns about the importance of client retention and communications. Touch your audience with customer-centric, high-value content using both print and email. Communicate in a personable manner on Facebook. Promote thought leadership and expand your reach with LinkedIn. Commit to doing at least one in-house or off-site customer-centric event to facilitate face-to-face engagement between top management and clients. It’s not enough for them to just interact with sales and customer service reps.
Remember, small things can have a significant impact! Review some simple (but critical) elements of your business operations. Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, used to say, “the first bite and the last bite are what people remember most.” For printers, this means the receptionist or auto call routing system (I’m shocked at how cumbersome some of these are) or delivery person. While these are often two of the most overlooked and lower pay scale positions, they establish the first and last impressions your company leaves. Think about that.
Reach out to me if you would like to discuss any of this. I love exchanging thoughts with printers and mailers. And my sincere wishes for a safe and joyous holiday season to all!